All this week, Parliament is once again in recess. It may suit the Prime Minister. It gives him a fire-break from all those frantic conversations between MPs about his suitability to remain as Prime Minister, and all those plots about how to get the PM to change his agenda and to understand the mood of the nation. It may suit individual MPs, who can use the time to travel or catch up with other matters. It does not suit the nation, and sends a bad signal about how much value we get for all those salaries and expenses. At a time when the public is learning how much it costs to keep so many politicians, it is especially ill-judged that, once again, we should be locked out of the main job.
There is so much Parliament should be doing. It should be going through the public accounts line by line, looking for ways of cutting the waste and needless expenditure. It needs to come to a conclusion about how much MPs should be paid and how much they can claim to help do the job, and then explain it to the nation. It needs to cross-examine the government more strictly over many of its plans, from ID cards to the new curriculum for the under-5s, with a view to getting improvements in them.
Parliament should be so much more than an occasional meeting used by the government to rubber-stamp its legislation. The old idea was that MPs sought redress for their constituentsâ€™ grievances â€“ better government â€“ before they voted the government more taxes. This side of the job has been squeezed by this governmentâ€™s regular holidays and shorter hours. They may find that more convenient for Ministers, but it makes for worse government. If they had been prepared to take a bit more scrutiny and criticism in the spendthrift years, they might not have landed us in such an over-borrowed mess today.